Gustav Fechner

Gustav Theodor Fechner

Gustav Fechner

Gustav Theodor Fechner (DE) (1801-1887) was an experimental psychologist and the founder of psychophysics.

An early pioneer in experimental psychology and founder of psychophysics, he inspired many 20th century scientists and philosophers. He is credited with demonstrating the non-linear relationship between psychological sensation and the physical intensity of a stimulus via the formula: "S = K Log I.

Fechner's epoch-making work was his Elemente der Psychophysik (1860). He starts from the monistic thought that bodily facts and conscious facts, though not reducible one to the other, are different sides of one reality. His originality lies in trying to discover an exact mathematical relation between them. The most famous outcome of his inquiries is the law known as the Weber–Fechner law which may be expressed as follows:

In order that the intensity of a sensation may increase in arithmetical progression, the stimulus must increase in geometrical progression.

Fechner, along with Wilhelm Wundt and Hermann von Helmholtz, is recognized as one of the founders of modern experimental psychology. His clearest contribution was the demonstration that because the mind was susceptible to measurement and mathematical treatment, psychology had the potential to become a quantified science. Theorists such as Immanuel Kant had long stated that this was impossible, and that therefore, a science of psychology was also impossible.

Fechner's world concept was highly animistic. He felt the thrill of life everywhere, in plants, earth, stars, the total universe. Man stands midway between the souls of plants and the souls of stars, who are angels. God, the soul of the universe, must be conceived as having an existence analogous to men. Natural laws are just the modes of the unfolding of God's perfection. Fechner's work in aesthetics is also important. He conducted experiments to show that certain abstract forms and proportions are naturally pleasing to our senses, and gave some new illustrations of the working of aesthetic association.

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